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The two-story brick house possesses many of the hallmarks of the “modern” early twentieth century Prairie Style, including a boxy and linear form, low-pitched roofs, and broad eave overhangs. Features such as half-timbering on the second level, original casement and transom windows with multiple square lights, and a massive, unadorned external brick chimney emphasize the characteristically strong geometric feeling of the style.


The Burnham family occupied the house for decades. Frederick, the patriarch, held several important positions in San Diego including Harbor Commissioner, President of the Board of Education, and the Board of Health, and Director of the Y.M.C.A. Daughters Katherine Ostrander and Lilla Barney bought out the interests of their siblings after the deaths of their parents and moved back into the family home in 1948. Living on separate floors, they had the main entrance reconfigured to the north side of the house to be closer to the central staircase. A new wall inserted beneath the staircase divided the house into separate upstairs and downstairs units, with the staircase providing a private and direct access to the second level apartment. Fortunately, this alteration was done with care, leaving the grand staircase intact and preserving one of the home’s most spectacular architectural features that is quintessential Irving Gill. Demonstrating Gill’s love for natural lighting, the stairwell on the second level is open on three sides and brightly illuminated by banks of windows on the north and west walls. Although originally finished in natural wood, its beauty in both form and design are still evident.


In recent years the building has been converted from a residence into offices. Although much of the interior has been remodeled and several windows have been replaced, the Burnham Residence still retains much of its original historic fabric and character.


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